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Pauls Valley State School

Location Class:
Built: 1908 | Abandoned: July 10, 2015
Status: Under Renovation
Photojournalist: Michael Schwarz

Pauls Valley State Training School for Boys

Raising poultry at State Training School for Boys, Pauls Valley ca. April 1936
Credit to Alphia O. Hart

Pauls Valley State Training School for White boys was established in 1907 in Southern Oklahoma. Construction on the major facility began a year later creating cottages, dormitories, a farm and classrooms. It focused on White boys ages ten to eighteen and used military discipline combined with education to refine the boys’ behavior. Manual labor was done on the farm and in the fields, boys planted vegetables and took care of chickens. The whistle blew at 11:30, and the boys would march in from the field where they had just spent the morning. Over the years the facility housed on average a few hundred boys at a time, they would attend school for half of the day and work a trade the other half. Eight grades were taught and then boys would be required to take vocational classes, they had thirty trades to select from and learn about. Some of these included cooking, cleaning and pressing, farming, poultry raising, engineering, printing, shoe repairs, and laundering. Skills that they could take out into the real world but also were vital to the inner workings of the facility.

The average length of time that the boys spent in the facility was around eighteen months but was often shortened if they had a record of good behavior. Military drills were practiced for thirty minutes daily by each pupil. In 1931 $45,000 was approved to add two new buildings to the grounds, one of them being a detention and observation home. It would include a classroom, clinic, and dormitory living quarters. The second building would be a new dormitory with twenty rooms that could fit two boys in each room. It would become known as the “honor building” where boys were assigned to stay after completing three months of training.

Boys were sentenced to the State Training School for many reasons ranging from petty theft to things more serious such as murder. In 1938, Daniel Van Horn, 15, and a 12-year-old accomplice were sentenced to five years at the State Training School for Boys after they were convicted of highjacking and theft. They took $1.80 as well as the carrier boys’ bicycle. Another young boy, L.E. Goddard was 12 when he was sentenced to Pauls Valley after he shot and killed his eight-year-old cousin. He critically injured his aunt in the altercation as well and told officials that he did it because “they were telling lies on me.” He was observed at the Eastern State Hospital for Insane and determined to be sane with anger issues.

Pauls Valley State Hospital

In 1945 the facility was converted into the Pauls Valley State Hospital for Epileptics. The facility quickly filled up with over 350 patients. The State Hospital’s condition had been greatly diminished over the decades. Many people in the outside world were oblivious to the conditions in the facility, Representative Robert O. Cunningham visited the State Hospitals during his first term and noted the conditions. Expressing concerns over the lack of attendants, overcrowding and overall poor conditions. He made it a mission to see that the patients received better, which in turn would require more money.

Pauls Valley State School for the Mentally Retarded

The demand for mental hospitals was proven to be direr than a state hospital for epileptics and so in 1953, it became the Pauls Valley State School for the Mentally Retarded. Superintendent J.R. Deacon was appointed the first year and was influential in implementing new standards for the state school. All ages were taken in at Pauls Valley with different wards made for women and men. In December of 1960, a legislative task force visiting the State School revealed problems regarding funds that should have been used for care going toward maintenance of buildings on the 1,000-acre property.

Cora Calton reads to her two foster grandchildren, Bobby, left, and Steven at the Pauls Valley state School.
Southerland, Paul ca. February 14, 1990.

Big changes came just three years later when all schools and hospitals run by the State Department of Mental Health and Retardation were transferred to the State Department of Public Welfare, today that is the Department of Human Services. At the time there were more than a few hundred employees at Pauls Valley, for decades it continued to be Garvin County’s largest employer. With more than 2,000 patients in the Enid and Pauls Valley State Schools overcrowding was a major issue. This lead to a third facility being built in Sand Springs in 1964, Hissom Memorial Center.

Conditions of the state schools continued to be uncovered, in the 1980s an investigation was lead by the U.S. Justice Department into the three state facilities. Officials found that the facility’s conditions “caused grievous harm” to residents. Federal officials threatened the facilities and their superintendents saying funding for the Hissom Memorial, Pauls Valley and Enid centers could be cut back or stopped altogether if conditions weren’t improved.

Enid State School and Pauls Valley State School were renamed in 1992 to Northern and Southern Oklahoma Resource Centers (NORCE) (SORC). Around this time, the public and government’s views of institutionalization and treatment of mentally disabled/ill citizens changed drastically. Over the years it had come to light the poor treatment of individuals within these facilities and many had rallied for deinstitutionalization including President John F. Kennedy. NORCE and SORC worked with residents to try and to integrate them into society. The state schools worked and encouraged residents to move into the community or in with their families if they were able to.

Budget deficits of around $40 million forced the Department of Human Services to eliminate jobs within the Developmental Disabilities Services Division. Shortly after in 2011 it was announced that the facility would close and the 243 residents of NORCE and SORC would begin their transition into the community. On July 10, 2015 the last patient was moved out of Pauls Valley SORC, marking the end of an over a century old era of how the State of Oklahoma handled its citizens with mental disabilities. Institutions were a thing of the past and all patients were either reunited with their families or moved into community-based homes.

Washita Valley Complex.

In late 2018 and early 2019, the Department of Corrections took over the old SORC center and started work to transform it into a facility. Similar to what happened at the Eastern State Hospital, except this facility would be used for law enforcement training. Two renovation projects are going on at the site, one is the old laundry facility. It is being renovated to become the headquarters for a K-9 training facility for the department. The reopening of the old SORC as a DOC facility will hopefully help the local economy recover from its closure. The official name of the new facility is set to be called the Washita Valley Complex.

Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan.

[accordions][accordion title=”Bibliography” load=”hide”]

Hart, Alphia O. [Photograph 2012.201.B1013.0398]photographApril 25, 1936; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc558578/accessed December 27, 2020), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

Southerland, Paul. [Photograph 2012.201.B0120.0394]photographFebruary 14, 1990; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc250893/accessed January 1, 2021), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

“1 May 1950, 11 – Oklahoma Bulletin at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/593841617/?terms=pauls%20valley%20state%20hospital&match=1.

“29 Aug 1971, 66 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/453659175/?terms=pauls%20valley%20state%20school&match=1.

“29 Sep 1946, 57 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/449404028/?terms=pauls%20valley%20state%20hospital&match=1.

“6 Dec 1931, 21 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/444479627/?terms=training%20school%20for%20boys%20pauls%20valley&match=1.

“6 Jun 1999, 6 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/454694913/?terms=pauls%20valley%20state%20hospital%20epilepsy&match=1.

“6 Sep 1941, 1 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/447947993/?terms=training%20school%20for%20boys%20pauls%20valley&match=1.

“7 Jul 1938, 7 – Seminole Producer at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/589808567/?terms=training%20school%20for%20boys%20pauls%20valley&match=1.

Barry Porterfield bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com. “New Life Comes to Old SORC Site.” Pauls Valley Democrat, 20 Feb. 2019, www.paulsvalleydailydemocrat.com/news/local_news/new-life-comes-to-old-sorc-site/article_8d79ffd8-dfd5-5f37-981b-b4d5d158c51c.html.

McIntyre, Glen. “Disabled Have Been Helped in Enid Since 1910.” Enidnews.com, 1 Aug. 2009, www.enidnews.com/news/local_news/disabled-have-been-helped-in-enid-since/article_0f5d8eda-09da-5a57-96ce-9a35e7c9e3e7.html.

“Oklahoma Department of Human Services Closes Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley.” Oklahoman.com, 13 July 2015, oklahoman.com/article/5433361/oklahoma-department-of-human-services-closes-southern-oklahoma-resource-center-in-pauls-valley.

“Pauls Valley State School.” Asylum Projects, www.asylumprojects.org/index.php/Pauls_Valley_State_School.

“Timeline of Oklahoma’s Involvement in Treatment of Mental Disabilities.” Oklahoman.com, 22 Jan. 2012, oklahoman.com/article/3642361/timeline-of-oklahomas-involvement-in-treatment-of-mental-disabilities.


Emily Cowan

Emily was brought into the Abandoned OK Team in December of 2019. “I’m not gonna lie I fangirled a bit. My first published post I was ecstatic, I felt like I finally had the right audience for my work. The opportunities that came with it made me love the website even more. I remember my first interview with a couple at Waukomis Christian Church. They had bought and restored the 1897 church and insisted on keeping the original sanctuary despite being advised on moving it. We talked with them for at least a good 40 minutes about the church, the abandoned Waukomis Middle School beside it, and the towns other disappearing buildings. They even rang the bell for us that has sat in the bell-tower for the last 120 something years ago. We could tell they were just as passionate about preserving Oklahoma’s dwindling history as we were. When interviewing people and hearing the first-hand stories and recollections of a place and seeing how a person connects to a building, it forms a connection between not only you and that person but yourself and that building.”

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